Legislature(2003 - 2004)

03/01/2004 01:10 PM House JUD

Audio Topic
* first hearing in first committee of referral
+ teleconferenced
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
HCR 29 - SUPPORT THERAPEUTIC COURTS                                                                                           
Number 1055                                                                                                                     
CHAIR McGUIRE announced that the  next order of business would be                                                               
HOUSE  CONCURRENT  RESOLUTION NO.  29,  Relating  to support  for                                                               
therapeutic courts  for repeat driving while  under the influence                                                               
Number 1067                                                                                                                     
JON  BITTNER,  Staff  to Representative  Cheryll  Heinze,  Alaska                                                               
State Legislature,  presented HCR  29 on  behalf of  the sponsor,                                                               
Representative Heinze, as follows:                                                                                              
     Alcoholism  in  Alaska  is   a  serious  and  immediate                                                                    
     problem.   Conventional methods of dealing  with repeat                                                                    
     offenders  under   the  influence  of   alcohol  aren't                                                                    
     effective and are prohibitively expensive.                                                                                 
     The largest  supplier of mental health  care in America                                                                    
     today  is  the  correctional  system.    This  is  both                                                                    
     ineffective  and  expensive.    People  with  substance                                                                    
     abuse problems  aren't going to  be cured or  helped by                                                                    
     locking  them away  with few  if any  treatment options                                                                    
     and  then releasing  them  after  they've served  their                                                                    
     time.   The average  cost of  traditional incarceration                                                                    
     is roughly $113  per person per day.   Over an 18-month                                                                    
     period,  which is  the length  of the  wellness court's                                                                    
     treatment  program,  that  adds  up  to  over  $60,000.                                                                    
     Compare that with the daily  cost of the wellness court                                                                    
     which is about $22 per  day or roughly $11,000 over the                                                                    
     18-month treatment period, about  half of which is paid                                                                    
     by the state.  You see  a savings of around $50,000 per                                                                    
     The  best   way  we  have   of  treating   people  with                                                                    
     addictions are therapeutic courts.   While the alcohol-                                                                    
     related    recidivism   rate    for   a    conventional                                                                    
     incarceration of alcohol and  drug abusers is somewhere                                                                    
     around 67  percent nationwide,  the recidivism  rate of                                                                    
     wellness  court graduates  is about  25 percent.   This                                                                    
     disparity in success rates is  attributed to the use of                                                                    
     Naltrexone,  a  drug  that inhibits  alcohol  cravings,                                                                    
     coupled  with  community-based treatment  programs  and                                                                    
     cognitive-behavioral  therapy.     In  order  to  treat                                                                    
     someone  with  an  addiction, you  have  to  treat  the                                                                    
     cause.  To be most  effective, the community as a whole                                                                    
     must be involved.                                                                                                          
     House   Concurrent   Resolution   29  asks   that   the                                                                    
     legislature  show its  support for  therapeutic courts'                                                                    
     effectiveness  in  dealing   with  [driving  under  the                                                                    
     influence (DUI)]  crime.  It  also asks  the Department                                                                    
     of  Law  and the  Public  Defender  Agency to  actively                                                                    
     participate  in the  startup of  therapeutic courts  in                                                                    
     areas with high instances  of DUI offenders where there                                                                    
     is local  support for therapeutic courts.   Therapeutic                                                                    
     courts  are effective,  comparatively inexpensive,  and                                                                    
     easy to implement.  I urge your support of HCR 29.                                                                         
Number 1175                                                                                                                     
JANET  McCABE, Chair,  Partners for  Progress, announced  support                                                               
for HCR  29 as  well as  for all therapeutic  courts.   She noted                                                               
that the committee  packet should include the 2003  update on the                                                               
Anchorage wellness court run by  Judge James N. Wanamaker.  There                                                               
is three  years of data  compiled by the Justice  Center [College                                                               
of  Health  &  Social  Welfare]   at  the  University  of  Alaska                                                               
Anchorage.   This data illustrates that  the [Anchorage] wellness                                                               
court reverses the pattern typical of  those who are sent to jail                                                               
or treated in  the traditional manner.  In  Anchorage, 75 percent                                                               
of the  those [charged with]  felony driving under  the influence                                                               
(DUI)  are  likely   to  reoffend  and  return  to   jail.    The                                                               
aforementioned is  an expensive  cycle.   However, 75  percent of                                                               
those  who have  graduated three  years ago  from the  [Anchorage                                                               
wellness court]  have been  successful with  avoiding recidivism.                                                               
Furthermore, of the  13 graduates in 2003,  none have reoffended.                                                               
Ms. McCabe  noted that  those [who  participate in  the Anchorage                                                               
wellness court] are the core repeat offenders for DUI.                                                                          
MS.  McCABE informed  the committee  that the  Anchorage wellness                                                               
court is  a tough program.   Participants in the program  have to                                                               
remain alcohol-  and drug-free  for 18  months, during  which the                                                               
Anchorage Police  Department (APD) monitors them  with a bracelet                                                               
that  tests the  blood  for alcohol.   Furthermore,  participants                                                               
take Naltrexone, which quells the  craving for alcohol initially.                                                               
Therefore, participants are able  to stop thinking about drinking                                                               
and  actively participate  in treatment.    The participants  are                                                               
kept busy  with the Alcoholics Anonymous  (AA) meetings, meetings                                                               
with others taking  Naltrexone, and various other  meetings.  "By                                                               
the end  of 18  months, they are  genuinely changed  people," she                                                               
said.  Ms. McCabe said  this program produces better citizens and                                                               
saves the public money.   She noted that half of  the cost of the                                                               
program is paid  for by the participant, which is  viewed as part                                                               
of the therapy.                                                                                                                 
Number 1488                                                                                                                     
REPRESENTATIVE ANDERSON moved  to report HCR 29  out of committee                                                               
with individual recommendations and  the accompanying zero fiscal                                                               
note.   There being no  objection, HCR  29 was reported  from the                                                               
House Judiciary Standing Committee.                                                                                             

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